Definition: Farning. Using fear to impress danger upon someone. ex: Don’t eat that or you’ll die. My mom was the master of this. Still is actually. She’s very…mmm…dramatic is a good word. I say this with affection. Probably.
I bring this up because many of her farnings had a definite effect on me. I guess this is a good thing when your intent is to keep a child from potential harm, but what if it continues well into adulthood? Here’s a sampling of my
nut farm childhood:
1. Don’t talk on the phone during a storm or lightning will strike the house, go through the phone line and fry you like an egg. (even though this is only relevant if you’re on an “old fashioned” plug-in phone, I still won’t talk on my cell phone during storms)
2. If you get scraped by a rusty nail and you’re behind on tetanus you’ll get lock jaw and night vision. (Can you imagine the visual I had of this as a six year old? Although I’m intrigued by the idea of night vision, I’m still horrified by lock-jaw, cuz LOCK JAW)
3. Check all canned foods for botulism. If you eat something with botulism you’ll die within 5 minutes. (I still obsessively check cans for the “pop” and will not use one if it has even a tiny dent. I was so paranoid about this, I wouldn’t even eat canned food unless someone else was home until I was well into my twenties)
4. If you see a van driving next to you, RUN! Kidnappers drive vans and grab little kids and you’ll never see your family again. (um…no joke, I’m still scared shitless of vans. In fact, I’m quite skittish and always feel vulnerable when out in the open. My BFF finds this highly amusing)
5. Don’t take hot showers if you’re on your period, you could pass out, and could hit your head on the tile and drown. (*blank stare*) (To be honest, I think I heard this one from Girl Scouts, but my mom added the fear element of a head injury and possible drowning because merely “passing out” wasn’t enough of a warning. Obviously)
Now, maybe I was a super sensitive kid who took warnings very literal and that’s why they affected me so profoundly. OR, maybe the farnings were a bit too…hmm….harsh given my age at the time and could have been phrased more gently. *shrug* But it does give me pause when considering how to warn my own kids. For instance:
I see my 9yo playing in the street the other day. My warning, “get out of the street, you could get hit by a car” is no longer making an impact. I can tell. Cuz he’s still in the street. Herein lies my dilemma. How far do I go to impress upon him the gravity of the situation while not causing him to cower in the house the rest of his life cuz of mommy’s colorful description of brain matter on the asphalt?
When my 6yo is scared/mad he’ll run out of the house and hide under one of our cars (charming, btw). A few Saturdays ago he was upset he was being left with a sitter and did just that. The sitter was already in the house. The hubs and I had somewhere to be. I
stomped walked patiently to the car. He was wedged all the way in the middle and refused to budge. What did I do? I reverted to what I knew.
“Hurry and get out from under there! There’s a storm coming, you can’t be near large metal objects when there’s lightning!” (FYI, there really were *storm clouds.)
Awful, or not? I mean, that’s true about lightning, everyone knows that. And it worked! We got him inside and made our movie on time. Yes, he’s terrified of lightning now, but he already sort of was so I still see this as a WIN.
The thing is, I know my mom’s heart was in the right place. I get it. I bring it up all in fun, I mean, if it wasn’t for her farnings, how would I know to go through my kid’s Halloween candy for signs of foul play. You know, cuz Mom warned me how people stick needles in Tootsie Rolls to inject cyanide, and open Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups to insert razor blades and then replace the wrappers.
*by storm clouds I mean some grey clouds on the horizon. And by grey clouds on the horizon I mean an airplane. Shut up. That plane was ominous as shit.
So how far is too far? Was I just overly sensitive as a kid? Do you use fear to keep your kids safe? Did your parents ever give you farnings that still stick with you? I LOVE hearing from you!